Hold My Hand
I have done it! I can walk again! Knowing that I was paralyzed, at one time trapped in an immobile body having to rely on everyone for everything and wondering if I would ever walk again felt like a surreal mix of reality and illusion. My subconscious wish of being independent again became my ultimate fantasy and it has been Charlotte’s unconditional love for me that has helped me shape my dream into actuality.
I telephoned my mum after we finished streaming. She was so emotional that she couldn’t stop crying, even on the phone. Charlotte could not stop crying either and Sarah was noticeably sniffing and wiping her eyes. Apparently, my display of walking stirred up a lot of emotions for all the women. Thankfully, my dad, my friends and Nate stayed grounded because I couldn’t handle all the guys crying too. I’m sure the lads will be celebrating for me at the pub tonight.
Walking without any support is new and my body tires easily after short distances, so I made sure to sit in a chair to rest my legs while I chat with mum on the phone. After I have managed to calm my mum down a bit, I hold my arms out to Charlotte, convincing her to come over to me so I can pull her down onto my lap.
“So, what do you think of all this?“, I search her thoughts.
“I think you are amazing”, her expression sweet and her voice muffled from crying.
“Then why all the bawling?“, I ask, wiping her tear-stained cheeks.
Charlotte leans her head on my shoulder and softly replies, “I don’t know, maybe it’s because I love you and how proud I am of you”.
I grab her hand and mingle my fingers with hers. “There it is, I was waiting for my daily dose of proud from you”, I try and make her laugh.
“Now if you don’t mind, I would like you to stop being such a mess so we can go back to your place and I can make you dinner”, I chuckle, giving her a kiss on her head.
Charlotte starts laughing along with me, “You, make dinner?”
“I will do my best”, I respond and we both cackle in amusement.
She slowly climbs off my lap to stand and I reach out my hand for her to take. I don’t necessarily need to hold her hand when I walk, I want to hold her hand. The way her small hand fits perfectly in mine, the feeling of her warm touch, and when our fingers intertwine brings me comfort. I’ve been longing to walk hand in hand with the woman I love. No crutches, no arm around her shoulder or her grip around my waist to keep me from falling; just her and I, striding side by side holding hands.
“Do you want to drive?“, she surprisingly asks me.
Drive! I haven’t even thought about driving. It won’t be difficult I’m sure, I have complete control of my right leg and both arms, and besides my lack of directions, my driving skills should be on point.
“Sure!“, I eagerly shout.
Piece of cake, just like I imagined. I drove Charlotte’s jeep back to her apartment without any hiccup. Being behind the wheel, and the feeling of being in control was exhilarating and another triumph for me.
“Can I drive us every day?“, I squeal like a giddy teenager driving a car for the first time.
She chuckles at my excitement, “If that’s what you want to do”.
I’m not a creative cook, so I decide to make us spaghetti and meatballs. My legs are tired, but that’s not going to stop me from walking around the kitchen like a normal human being and making dinner for my girl. Plus, I have the kitchen counters to hold onto for support if I need it. Cooking should not be this fulfilling to me, but after a year of not being able to carry out this simple task, I am finally capable, and it gives me another sense of achievement and purpose.
I don’t need to look at Charlotte for me to feel her eyes following my every move. “Are you making sure I don’t burn anything”, I jokingly ask her.
“No, I enjoy watching you”, she smiles at me.
We both talk and laugh as we eat up the food and later, I’m intimately rewarded with Charlotte joining me for a hot bath.
Charlotte’s gaze remained immersed in everything I did, from getting myself out of the tub, walking to the closet then back to the bathroom before moving to the bed. It was an awe-struck kind of look she gave me, and I found myself relished in her flattery essence.
The next morning, I drove us back to the rehab center. Boston is a tricky city to maneuver around in a vehicle, but I enjoyed every minute of this new independence. I can’t yet run or even tackle stairs on my own, however, the acts of walking around and driving have made me feel more like myself, more like a man with purpose and hope again.
Charlotte snuck off to the hospital again as soon as we arrived at rehab. I hope her consistent meetings at the hospital are bringing in more clients for her. Only one new patient has come here since Jake left, and that is only because this place is fairly small compared to her California facility.
Nate and Sarah keep my morning occupied with more therapy of course. This time I am working on the stairs. There is a small structure in the gym that represents a form of steps. It looks sort of like a small bridge with a set of three steps on both sides and railings to hold on to. If looks could be deceiving, this stair structure would be it. Sarah stands behind me with her hands on both sides of me while I use all the energy I have to lift my weight up onto the next step. Both of my hands are gripping the rails and I am using most of my arm strength to keep my left leg from giving out. My legs and arms feel like jelly after only those three steps up to the platform. I’m frozen in time, anticipating the descent when Sarah catches on to my fear and pushes me to move on.
“Down is much easier, step down with your weaker leg first, then bring your other leg down to the same step and repeat with the remaining steps”, she instructs.
I do exactly as she says. With my left ankle locked in place with my brace, this is the only way I can go down the stairs.
“Phew! You were right, that was easier than going up!” I thank her.
Charlotte looks worn out as usual when we meet for lunch. That does not persuade her from continuing my afternoon therapy though. She grabs one of my forearm crutches and then grabs my hand, leading me to the hallway staircase.
“Why do you have my crutch?“, I am curious.
“There are 20 steps here and you can only hold onto one railing for support, so you will need to use the crutch with your other arm”, she informs me.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I snarl at her.
“Not in the least”, she smirks.
My nerves are kicking in, I inhale deeply then exhale my concerns to Charlotte. “You know I only climbed three steps with Sarah this morning, twenty is pushing it.”
“Don’t worry, you are not going to climb all of them today, but we are going to work at them every day until you make it all the way to the top and then back down”, she points out.
That does not calm my nerves any and I sarcastically spit out, “This is going to take hours.”
“And I will be right here with you every second”, she encourages me.
Charlotte has me start on the left side of the staircase, since my right arm does better with the crutch and my left hand can hold the railing. She instructs me to step up with my stronger right leg first while using my crutch at the same time then bring up my left leg to meet on the same step. Charlotte is behind me holding on to my hips and grasps tighter when she feels me wobble. I make it up six steps before both of my legs feel shaky. Looking down, I feel defeated and let out a loud sigh. She takes my crutch and puts my arm around her shoulder and guides me to sit down on the step.
“Six steps! That was great! Please don’t feel discouraged, just like all the obstacles you have overcome, this will be the same”, she takes my hand in hers and reassures me.
“Thanks! My Love”, I say and bring our locked hands up to kiss her fingers.
“You will conquer this staircase in no time”, she blurts out.
She helps me stand back up and hands me my crutch, this time my crutch is in my left hand when I go down the steps. Going down is still easier. I bring my crutch and left foot down onto the step at the same time, allowing my right leg to follow while I cling to the railing with my right hand. Charlotte stands in front of me and walks down the stairs backwards, protecting me from falling. We made it to the bottom in minutes and she congratulated me in typical Charlotte-like fashion by wrapping her arms around my back and embracing me.
We worked on the stairway every day, adding only one extra step a day. My progress was slow and tedious, though Charlotte inspired me every day to keep at it.
Fighting back my latest mood swings was getting exhausting. Now that I have felt the sweet rush of being able to walk again, I didn’t want to face the next climb. Not to mention, Charlotte is as exhausted as I am all the time, though she fights harder not to show it and continuously showers me with encouragement.
Today I’m going to make it all the way to the top of those damn stairs, and then I’m going to celebrate with charlotte by taking her out on a proper date.